Did Sony get it Right?

I was just as disappointed as you. “Sony announces PlayStation 4.” Thats how all the headlines go right? Well, if by announces you mean confirmed there will be one without giving price, dates, or every a picture of the device.

But believe it or not, I think Sony actually got their press release almost right for a change. They focused on what you can do with their product, instead of the product itself. Because really, the PS4 is going to be a bunch of parts that mean good graphics performance. Thats all the box means. It really doesn’t even matter how much it costs or when its coming because if they can convince you that it will change how you interact with games you’ll wait excited.

Sony mentioned several times that they went back to what a PlayStation is, a “Play” station. And based on their press conference and focus I think they may actually be serious. They’ve realized what they missed big time last time around, hardware matters not if it doesn’t change how you interact with it.

Wii kicked it off with their underpowered blockbuster. Xbox gained the lead by investing heavily in exclusive games and followed up with Kinect. But the PS3 came out guns a blazing with a double the price tag plus a spec sheet a mile long and it didn’t pan out too well.

It looks like this time around Sony has at least caught a whiff of the right path and is starting to follow it. Focused on new software, new interactions, and most importantly showcasing the games that will drive adoption. I applaud Sony for their new direction. If they can keep it up and prove they mean it, maybe we won’t start our Sony topics with “Remember the PS2?.”

Cheaper != Lower Quality

There have been a lot of talks about a cheaper iPhone for years. It used to manifest itself as an iPhone Mini prediction. The latest talks are that it will be bigger to combat growing Android sales and screen sizes. No matter the predictions the expectations are the same, a cheaper iPhone to battle Android for market share.

They could not be further from the truth. In my opinion Apple is winning the market share battle with the iPhone already. Apple has strong, steady, controlled, marketshare and overall unit growth. They’ve had it since the first iPhone. It marches on 1% at a time. Why? Because the turnover rate for the iPhone is well over 90%. I’ve seen figures suggesting 99%. When people get an iPhone, they don’t switch to Android 2 years later, they get a new iPhone. Apple is in this for the long term. Thats why they don’t make changes for the sake of change, they refine and hone the already incredible product.

Just like with the iPad Mini, I don’t think the end goal is to vie for marketshare against the “Android threat.” Certainly the tweener Android tablets spurred the investment, but I believe that as they experimented with the iPad’s little brother they realized the smaller form factor had the ability not just to be cheaper but to be unique and desirable. Had they been gunning for cheaper, Apple easily could have used their economies of scale to create a $99 tablet with an Apple on the back and the “Android threat” would certainly have been thwarted in the mass market. But I wouldn’t have bought one and I don’t think many other key Apple customers would have either. There is a reason I didn’t buy the CherryPad. I do extensive research when buying new products to find the best quality. And I doubt Apple could have produced a $99 tablet comparable to the iPad Mini today.

But why the rumors of a cheaper iPhone? Certainly its beginning to seem as though there is too much smoke without a fire. I think Apple is indeed working on a cheaper iPhone. But I don’t think it’s goal is marketshare domination. I believe its goal is to provide a better product to the millions buying last year’s iPhone. Right now Apple offers the iPhone 4 and 4S at discounted rates down to $0. But there is no doubt, the iPhone 4 is no comparison for the quality of the iPhone 5. I believe a cheaper iPhone will follow in the steps of the iPad Mini while replacing the legacy iPhones in Apple’s lineup. The cheaper iPhone will no doubt house old iPhone internals, but in new combinations that make sense for today while offering a refined industrial design and key upgrades. The iPad Mini is made up of old parts (iPhone 3GS screen, iPhone 4S processor, etc.), yet its twice as fast and much higher build quality than its more expensive yet older iPad 2 relative. I believe a cheaper iPhone will fill this same space. A product that takes advantage of the value in older components that haven’t outlived their power curve while offering upgrades to the parts that really need it.

No doubt a cheaper iPhone will drive more adoption. But just as with the iPad Mini, it will probably drive a high rate of cannibalization. Not because its cheaper, because it offers a unique experience that many users are looking for.

Call for Feedback

The popup menu for offering feedback.

I need your feedback!

I’ve been working at Super Duper for almost a year now. I was brought on to help develop more interactive iPad and iPhone applications. Through the latest WH and Core Curriculum apps as well as a recent update to all the Fun Decks I’ve tried to do that. But the features I’m adding and changes I’ve made are only my best guesses.

The very few reviews we receive on the App Store are rarely constructive and even when they are we are unable to respond because of privacy concerns from Apple keeping reviewer information anonymous. But in order to offer a better user experience we’re left guessing at what our customers want.

In an effort to bridge the gap between our users and us, we’ve started adding a new button in our apps. If you haven’t already noticed it, I hope you’ll try it out. As always you can leave a review in the App Store. But more importantly you can send an email directly to us with a suggestion or a problem you’ve been having. These emails aren’t wasted. The few I get, I read daily. The emails I get for WH and Core Curriculum are taken very seriously. I’m always working on updates that fix problems and add new features. The more I get, the more time I can devote to regular updates for the apps. And everything we learn, I can apply to new apps and hopefully get them right from the start.

So this is my plea. Next time you have a problem, please send a bug report with any information you think could help. And when you’re thinking, “I wish I could do…” send me a suggestion. My job is to make your app dreams come true, I just need to know what those dreams are. :]

State of the Union: Maps for iOS

Google Maps has always had a home on iOS. In fact when it first launched back in 2007 I think everyone agreed it was one of the best mapping experiences the world had seen yet. It wasn’t the most powerful, fastest, or anything like that but it afforded a brand new way to interact with maps and put them into the pockets of millions of users.

Fast forward to 2012 and we see a maps experience that has been passed by long ago. Apple has seen this and begged Google to offer at least the same features they’ve invested in their own platform. Google refuses offering very small if any new features and leaving it to Apple development teams to implement them (though I think we can all guess that Apple is as much to blame for this as Google). Apple knew they had to do something and so iOS6 Apple Maps were born. I don’t think it was ever about competing with Google Maps because otherwise I expect we would have seen cross platform solutions rolled out very quickly. I think Apple Maps has been about offering a better experience to iOS users who have grown accustomed to being ignored by the mapping community.

I believe Apple Maps has accomplished Apple’s key goal. Better Maps experience for users. Heres the kicker though, its not from Apple. Apple tipped the boulder but its Nokia, Google, Bing, and other third parties that are keeping it rolling. And in the end, iOS users now have a vast choice of powerful mapping software. I’m certain Apple would have loved for their Maps solution to be a run away success and I’m also certain they’ll keep working at it. But at the end of the day Apple may have forced Google to give up their platform exclusive features as well as gain Nokia’s vast UPS/FedEx mapping data. They’ve also sparked a flurry of third party mapping apps using different API’s with unique interfaces and features.

Apple may be taking the PR heat for their “Mapgate” but I think thats what Apple has always been about. Giving the users what they need, even if its not what they want.

iHelp is born.

While many of use were celebrating the new year with friends and family, I was releasing my latest venture. I launched iHelp at 12:00AM January 1st, 2012. iHelp is a new service to answer your questions about Apple products.

Like many of you, I am approached by people everyday with questions about their latest gadget. I’ve been assigned the title “Tech Guy” and by extension lately “Apple Guy.” And with Apple products, especially iProducts, proliferating the mainstream today questions are flowing fast. I’ve read some statistics claiming as many as 75% of iPhones are owned by people who’ve never owned an Apple product. These devices, even as easy as they are to use, still present new and unfamiliar paradigms to fresh users. Most of these are things that can be easily picked up or in my case, answered with a simple question. Recently I’ve even been getting emails and texts from friends of friends as my name spreads around as “Apple Guy.” And so a service idea was born.

I began to think about the resources offered to Apple customers. Sure Apple has the catchy “Finger Tips” manual that offers about 30 seconds of basics. But that doesn’t scratch the surface of what iOS is capable today. Then there are a few books out there but most of them are big enough you could fit 15 iPhones inside them. Thats daunting to new users. They don’t want a book cataloging everything they might do, even Apple realized that early on. What they want and need is a simple service to get the answer to the problem they have right now. As techies we normally just google. Or better yet there are even services out there that answer some questions like Quora and Stack Overflow. But normal people, ask a friend.

I built iHelp so I can be a friend to even more people. Right now its extremely simple. Ask a question, get an email when its answered by me. I have tons of ideas and plans to expand but I want to take my time and make sure that each new feature doesn’t get in the way of the original trademark: Simple. I love Apple and its products. And I want everyone’s experience with them to be as fun as mine. So the next time a mere mortal needs some help with their shiny new Apple toy, send them to http://GetiHelp.com.